The Arizona natives of Scary Kids Scaring Kids are members of one such band, but here’s the thing: they just might be right. What’s more, despite their young ages and the lack of any five-syllable words on their new self-titled album, this obscure fivesome of the emo generation might actually be the upstarts who redefine how the rest of us define art as it relates to rock.
“Art is something that moves someone, and I know the albums that moved me growing up. I just hope that this album can be that to other people,” says keyboardist Pouyan Afkary, though he’s quick to add, “I can’t be that ego-centric to say this album is art compared to other bands that are true artists. We’re just growing musicians who are trying to define our own brand of music.”
While sonically sweeping and riff-heavy as ever, as is the band’s signature, this album shows a marked growth in both maturity and musicianship, as well as in their ability to bridge the two with emotional insight and honesty. Along with his band mates, guitarists Chad Crawford and Steve Kirby, drummer James Ethridge, vocalist Tyson Stevens and drummer DJ Wilson, Afkary credits the significant stepping up of their game primarily to a lengthier writing and recording process.
“With our last album, we didn’t have enough time to perfect or focus on all the small issues. With this one, if there was something that was rubbing us the wrong way, we were able to fix it and that really helped us get exactly what we wanted out of each song,” he says. “And we’re listening to different music, so we’re creating different music. We’re really fine-tuning our own sound to what we want to hear. There’s a lot more melody in it and a lot more passion.”
Though Afkary admits he worried at times of how fans about the band’s thrashier debut album, The City Sleeps in Flames, would take to the new material, he and his band mates were resolute in their desire to maintain their musical integrity above all else on their follow-up, regardless of what response it got.
“You can never assume that your band’s going to have any success whatsoever. You can write what you love, be completely proud of it and it could still sell like shit,” says Afkary. “The only thing you can do is keep writing what you’re passionate about. If you write what they want to hear, the lack of connection to the album is going to show, if not in the small intricacies of the album, then definitely in the live show.”
And talking to the band members themselves, or their close friends, it becomes apparent just how passionate they are about their craft and how infectious that is to those around them, extending out even to their listeners and live audiences.
“People have really opened up to this album, which is important to us,” says Afkary of fans who have already expressed how they related to songs on the album. “I don’t think most of us know how to react to someone that’s so grateful for something. You’re appreciative of it, but you don’t know the right words to say because you don’t know them on a personal level. It’s awkward to have someone confide everything that means so much to them and tell you that this song you wrote touched them so deeply, but we’re grateful that those songs do what they do.”
Much as it may take them out of their comfort zone, though, that’s all Afkary hopes his band’s music can instill in listeners.
“Whether it’s that they had a great time at a show or something deeply emotional when they sat down and listened to the album, that’s the ultimate goal, to have people connect to it and really feel what we put in there.”
Maybe they’re not the musical second coming of Jesus or anything, as so many other self-professed artsy rock bands claim themselves to be, but one listen to the band’s latest album, one time witnessing their live show and the members of Scary Kids Scaring Kids will make you a believer in their art all the same.
Scary Kids Scaring Kids will perform Feb. 7 at the El Rey. For more information, visit www.scarykids.com.